Saturday, December 31, 2011

Boeuf Bourguignon Pies

And so it's the end of 2011, and the time where we look back on the year that was, and set high expectations on the year ahead. My year in brief:
  • I finally purchased my first home, and am slowly becoming accustomed to the responsibilities that come with that
  • I became an uncle to the most gorgeous little girl in the world, Princess Aurora
  • I went to Singapore and Borneo, got to put up my feet and relax, and see some dear friends that i miss all the time
  • I felt recognized for my work (my day job) and felt like I'm finally making a difference in my workplace
  • I got to meet the Iron Chefs! And better still, so did my dad. 
There was sadness and disappointment in 2011, as there is every year. But i choose not to dwell on these things, and i look forward to another year of new horizons. I hope everyone who reads this can also see some good that has come out of the past 12 months, and if they cannot, let me know i can help make 2012 a year you'll look back on with a smile.

As to 2012 for me, who knows? I want to achieve many things, and i think that these should be the subject of another recipe, and another post.

For now: Happy New Year, and below is the recipe i made for pot luck NYE dinner.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Dry Beef Hor Fun

Ahh Singapore, how you now seem like a distant memory. Realizing I'm meant to go back to work tomorrow, this is the first time since high school that I've just feel like doing ANYTHING but going back to work. And so i look fondly upon just a few months ago, relaxing in Borneo and living it up in Singapore. 

So i know that hor fun seems to traditionally be served as a wet noodle dish; in fact I've seen variations of a thickened sauce that is pale in colour, but I've also seen variations that have a literal, runny, transparent broth with them! However, this version, which is a bit harder to find, is my favorite: dry beef hor fun! This version here is not quite as good as what i had over in Singapore, which was my favorite meal for the entire trip! But it seems to be hard to find recipes for this dry style on the Internet. Never mind, it's still delicious!

Stay tuned for one last post for 2011 (maybe 2... I'm hungry!) and I'll see you all again next year before the Mayan gods come get us.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Eggnog Cheesecake with Praline

Merry Christmas world!

My favorite Christmas memories:
  • When i was young, we did not have Christmas stockings, but rather, Christmas SACKS! Running to the living room and rifling through a great hulking sack of presents from Santa was the best feeling in the Universe to a kid.
  • Every year, Christmas lunch would be different. One of my favorite memories was playing Celebrity Heads, and the random hints my grandfather would give. For example, 'the block' was his hint for Barbie. How? Well, the 'block' referred to a block of land my Aunt and Uncle own. It has a fence. That fence has barbed wire. Barbed... Barbie.. get it? O_o
  • Christmas with my strange Uncle the accordion player. Him cracking it out and belting some tunes, and always bringing the most random Christmas presents. Giant fly swats? Transformer bugs? That's only the beginning!
  • The night before Christmas. Perhaps the thing i miss most now that all of the kids have flown the coop. But sitting together, excited, filled with trepidation, as we watch Christmas movies and listen out for Santa.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Apple Muffins with Maple Glaze & a Word on Christmas Birthdays

So, I've probably mentioned this several hundred times already over the course of this blog, but Christmas season is an especially busy season in my family. It begins with my birthday in early December, and ramps up quickly to my Father's birthday on Christmas eve and my sister's birthday on Christmas day. And let's face it, when your born so close to to the biggest Australian holiday of the year, you can tend to feel a lil bit forgotten. So before we get on to our Christmas feasting, let me take a couple of paragraphs to indulge in discussing two members of my family.

My father, Peter, shares as great a passion for food as i do, and recently he's taking more and more leaps in the kitchen and churning out dishes that are absolutely fantastic. His tangy pork curry is the most delicious curry I've ever tasted, bar none. I won't divulge his secret recipe here... yet! In some ways dad is the realist of the family, and we've always made jokes about his notorious thrift. But lets face it, together my parents brought up three kids, all of whom are successful! And when i look back at the mounds of presents i got every year on every occasion, the food we ate, the houses we lived in, i realise that the only thrift my dad ever really showed was personal sacrifices he made for the sake of his children. Thanks Dad!

My sister, Melinda, is the eldest of three siblings, and has blazed the path for my second sister and myself. First to move out of home! First to get married! First to have a baby! And she's done it all so easily, as though it were no trouble at all. With strong convictions, and a flair for some unusual inventions (orange lemon cordial anyone?) my sister is also a great cook; my favorite is her Asian style pork neck (ooh and cold chicken with chili sauce). But she's also a great mum, a great hostess, a great nurse, and has that rare gift of actually listening to you when you need someone there.

So, here's to two members of my family, who although their birthdays may get caught up in the Christmas storm, are never forgotten in my mind or heart.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Grilled Chilli Chicken on Mango Salad and Coconut Rice

Happy holidays everyone! Christmas is only three days away, which means i have to get my fill of non-christmassy foods on my own before I'm drowning in pork, turkey and that general sense of lethargy that a full tummy brings! So here i present: Grilled chilli chicken on mango salad and coconut rice! A winning combination of sweetness, creaminess and spice.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Ben & Jerry's Style Strawberry Ice Cream

Ben & Jerry's is slowly making an inception across Australia! I noticed the other day that it's now stocked at Caltex service stations, and also at the deli down the road from me!

As the rest of Australia falls in love with the creamy confectionery, i have my own secret weapon - home made ice cream! The reason i say my recipes at Ben & Jerry's style are the way the custards are made. Traditionally, an ice cream custard is make by bringing up egg yolks to a certain temperature and then mixing in the egg whites. With this style, not so! It's much easier. There is no preheating involved in this style of ice cream, and I'm yet to experience any shortfalls in taste or texture as a result.

This particular ice-cream celebrates the deliciousness of summer strawberries, sweet and slightly tart, cutting through the rich creaminess of the ice cream. 

Grilled Vegetable and Haloumi Salad

Summertime, and i can feel a theme coming on! With long work hours, late sunlight, and back to cooking for one, salads are becoming an imperative this summer season! To me, a good salad is about fresh ingredients, with one highlight yummy addition. That addition might be cheese, it might be bread, it might be meat. It doesn't matter, but it's the drawcard of the dish to me! In this instance it's haloumi.

For the first few times i tried to make grilled haloumi i was so disappointed. Gone was the melty, salty goodness i'd experienced at Greek restaurants, and in it's place was a squeaky (yes squeaky!!) rubbery mass. The key is in long cooking; really cook your haloumi until it's starting to lose it's shape. If it's still a nice brick, she ain't ready yet!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Blackberry Frozen Yoghurt

Summer lovin' is all about getting reacquainted with my icecream machine! But hey, we're (trying to be) on a health kick here so lets bring on the frozen yoghurt! I was really happy to find how well this recipe worked out- it was so creamy and delicious it really wiped the floor of those supermarket frozen yoghurts. My guess is that it comes down to ingredients - using good quality yoghurt as the base is a must!

Grilled Duck Salad with Goats Cheese & Cranberries

I'm back! I've finally gotten used to my new kitchen (namely: not burning things) and now it's time for summer fun! First up is a salad that is sure to impress. Duck works so well in a salad as the slightly fatty meat contrasts so well with the tartness of a dressing, the pepperiness of greens, and the rich saltiness of the goats cheese. Don't be phased by cooking duck; by following some simple rules it's very easy to cook. The name of the game is to render out the fat without making the meat tough: your best weapon here is a stove and oven.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

An International Hiatus and a Hobbit Hole To Call My Own

Sorry readers, for my lack of posting lately! I've been caught up in a veritable McFlurry of activity. Namely, i've both finally bought an apartment, and just came back from 10 nights in Singapore and Kota Kinabalu! So i move in to my new above this upcoming weekend and i'll be sure to provide ya'll with a new recipe following that but in the meantime, click below to see a photo feast of the goodies i devoured in Asia.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Crumb Cake with Pineapple & Custard

This Sunday in Melbourne is of course Father's Day! We had 15 people over for lunch and i was tasked with making two desserts! The first dessert was easy - the always satisfying torta di chocolate but for the second dessert i wanted to try something a bit different. In my daily perusal of Eats on the iPad app Flipboard, i came across the recipe for a Hazelnut Plum Crumb Cake on Smitten Kitchen. Of course plums aren't in season in Australia at the moment so i opted to make a tweaked pineapple version (also happens to be my dad's favorite fruit).

This cake is similar in ways to the crumbles that we're familiar with here in Australia, except with a base that makes it easily slice-able! And the best part is that the custard is baked IN to the cake so there's no need to dollop it on top! Unless you're feeling extra piggy today.

Green Mango Salad with Chargrilled Chicken

 Finally! Just over 12 months ago today i arrived back in Melbourne from my first trip to Thailand. I arrived rested, exciting, and... craving! My trip to Thailand consisted of binge consumption of four things: Red pork curry (made...tick!), pad thai (made...tick!), mango and sticky rice (made...tick!), cocktails (made....tick!) and papaya salad (not yet made!). It's soooo hard to find green papayas here in Australia, but this week as i was walking through Coles i noticed green mangos! With no hesitation i piled three into my basket and trundled for the cashier, eager to race home and make this salad.

 If you have not had green mango or green papaya before you might feel put off by the thought, but don't. There is no strong sourness or bitterness imparted by the unripe fruit. Instead, it's more about the texture. Crisp and fresh like cucumber but firmer and less watery. With the combination of the refreshing mango sticks and the salty/sour/spicy dressing, this dish is a killer summer salad which i will continue to make so long as i can get my hands on green mangoes and papayas. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Pizza with Leek, Mushroom & Prosciutto

 Is a pizza really a recipe? I suppose it is, just a really really simple one! I've shown you how to make my pizza dough before, and my pizza sauce so this is really just a collection of toppings that i enjoy! And i hope you will too.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Picadinho de Milho

Picadinho de Milho or Chopped Beef with Corn is a Brazillian dish traditionally served at botequim or pub restaurants. I've also seen several references to the dish being one traditionally made for festivals and other community occasions.

It is a simple dish with few ingredients, and like so many dishes traditional for festivals and gatherings, it is hearty and moreish. As such, enjoy this dish for what it is rather than expecting some sort of high-brow delight from it. It's soul food, enjoy it with rice and a fried egg.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Korean Fried Chicken

Holy frijoles how has nobody ever dragged me out for Korean Fried Chicken before?? This is really a piglet's delight. Succulent pieces of crisp fried chicken tossed in a spicy Korean sauce. The ultimate in finger licking indulgence, i could have polished off the whole lot myself (and almost did!).

Seriously though, this dish is too good not to try. I'm not a big deep frying person as apart from the health considerations there' the hassle with all the oil and the draining and getting it to the right temperature and whatnot. But i can guarantee you that, even if you are a low-use deep fryer like me, these wings will convert you! So long as you don't mind (a lot) of spice!

A note here: traditionally, this recipe calls for gojuchang, which is a Korean chili paste. Unfortunately i couldn't get my hands on any so i substituted with Sichuan Chili Bean Paste and tweaked the sauce to get the right flavour.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Sichuan Style Fried Green Beans - Gan Bian Si Ji Dou

I've been craving Gan Bian Si Ji Dou for so long, ever since my friend Eugene visited from Singapore and arranged a catch-up at a Sichuan restaurant in Swanston Street. We ordered copious amounts of food and yet i kept on piling my dish up from the bowl of chewy fried green beans and pork.

In typical Sichuan style, this dish brings together the harmonious taste/sensations of oil, heat and salt which is what i feel makes it so irresistible! If you discipline yourself you can cut the oil down significantly in the dish and make it, well, somewhat approximate a healthy dish (if you squint REALLY hard).

I may have gone a bit overboard with my hankering for spice and salt this week! I'm doing Mapo on Tuesday for my father and Korean Fried Chicken for myself on Wednesday- stay tuned for that one!

Condensed Milk & Sweet Potato Cake

This cake is very Southeast Asian in style. You know those cakes that seem to be a strange combination of custard and cake? This very much fits into that category. Filling and tasty, yet not rich of cloying, it is a perfect cake to share around.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Mushroom & Twice Smoked Ham Quiche

Eggs. We eat them. They are delicious. 

Mushrooms. Also delicious. 

Smoked Ham. More delicious

The three baked together? Gimme gimme gimme. I think quiche was one of my favorite foods as a child, hovering around the same place as Chicken & Sweetcorn Soup and Spinach Balls (i was nothing if not a strange child).  Here you can see my recipe for quiche lorraine with a pre-made base. This recipe below just kicks things up a notch. 

Trusty Zucchini Slice

What can one turn to when one has an abundance of eggs? The usual culprits come to mind:
  • omelette
  • quiche
  • zuchini slice
And yes, i plan on cooking them all! This zucchini slice is one of the best i've had. There's nothing fancy about it, nothing out of the ordinary. But i've cut down on the oil in the slice, and the level of flour provide a slightly cakey spongelike consistency that i like.

This may be kind of dagsville for a recipe, but its also delish! Maybe i should call it courgette frittata... :P

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Thyme Infused Baked Beans with Chorizo & Twice Smoked Ham

I detest baked beans. Well at least, baked beans that come from a can. Yuk!  An even worse, canned spaghetti. Slimy, salty and detestable, i will not touch the stuff. And don't be fooled into thinking that this is just some food snobbery! I happily sit down to canned soups and even (gasp) canned Bolognese sauce (which i secretly adore shh!).

However, home made baked beans are a thing of fuzzy, comforting joy. Rich and satisfying, with smoky meats and perfectly tender beans, they are something everyone should make on a cold winter's day. This version is perhaps a little extravagant, but you could replace the meats with just ham or bacon and still have a delicious dinner.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Passionfruit Cheesecake Icecream

Yum! Don't you love when a bunch of leftover ingredients sitting around lead to an awesome culinary creation: cue: 1 packet of cream cheese, 1 frozen container of passionfruit curd leftover from sponge cake, and an abundance of eggs (48 to be exact). Put them all together and what does that make: passionfruit cheesecake icecream!

Actually, to be honest, credit must go to my mother. I had originally decided to make passionfruit curd icecream, but it was mum who thought of throwing the cream cheese in there. A family of diabolical geniuses or what!

Country Omelette with Gypsy Ham

I was so excited to be making an omelette this morning, as i haven't made one for years. The lack of a good non-stick pan in the house put the kibosh on that! Thankfully i used some gift vouchers yesterday to go out and get a top notch Anolon one and boy did it work well! The omelette just slid from the pan, so easily, i forgot how much of a boon non-stick coatings can be.

The gypsy ham used for this recipe (and for a couple more coming up) i got from my local deli. Gypsy ham and bacon always intrigued me, with the dark coloring on the outside with the richly pink meat inside. It turns out that gypsy hams are double smoked, enriching the porky flavor of the meat. And it was indeed very delicious.

Now, if you haven't made an omelette before, or need some brushing up on your technique, i recommend that you watch this youtube video of Jacques Pepin. This man is a clear expert in omelette making!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Brodo with Spinach & Ricotta Dumplings

So a brodo, it turns out, is a lovely rustic sounding Italian name for a broth. I've heard some tell that a true brodo must contain pasta of some sort, but bah! These dumplings are pasta enough for me.

Looks like i've achieved my holy grail of broth clarity: I had originally made a beautifully vivid yellow, but somewhat cloudy broth. I placed it in the fridge overnight to pull it out only to find that it had become a murky muddy brown!! So i went to trusty google to attempt the fabled egg raft method for clarifying broths. And check it out!! That is some super clear broth there if i do say so myself.

This is a great wintry dish that is light yet filling and satisfying at the same time. Feel free to replace the spinach with 1 cup of frozen spinach to save some time.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Passionfruit Curd Sponge

When i was a bit younger (and not too much younger mind you) my grandmother had three specialties that would always set my tummy rumbling: Apple pie, 'cheesecakes' and passionfruit sponge. Unfortunately my nan can't really cook anymore, and i miss her treats a lot.

Nan's apple pie was the most delicious apple pie in the world with a buttery, crumby crust that soaked up the yellow tinged Blue Ribbon ice cream she would lavishly ladle into the bowl.

Her 'cheesecakes' were definitely a family favorite, and i hear reknowned in the shop in which she once worked. I'm not sure where the 'cheese' comes in to these cheesecakes. They were like a jam tart in puff pastry, but with a lid that was of a dense cupcake like mixture. Truly special.

And finally, the passionfruit sponge. Light as a feather, filled with whipped cream, and topped with a passionfruit icing. I could have eaten a whole cake in one sitting (and i and worried that i may have on more than one occasion.)

And so it came, that i thought i'd try my hand at a sponge. But rather than ice with passionfruit i thought i'd go with a curd instead. I am extremely happy to find that my cake is also as light as a feather! I followed recipes and instructions much more closely than usual however, remembering to triple sift the flour and bring ingredients to room temperature.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pork with Cider and Apples

Do any of you out there subscribe to Gourmet Traveller or frequent their website? I'm constantly impressed by their recipe collections, and find them a great resource for the budding amateur chef who wants to make something a little bit special.

This latest dish which came from Gourmet Traveller reminds me of those staple pork dishes that would have been on gastropub menus of yesterday. It seems like these days it's all pork belly and crispy pork bits, but this recipe tramples back over old ground to the reliable pork steak. This is a very rich and hearty winter dish that sticks to your ribs and makes you forget you're desperate for summer...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Green Masala Lamb Chops on a Fennel, Tomato and White Balsamic Salad

This recipe is a twisted variation on one that i found from Neil Perry. This is the first time i've used Neil Perry as an influence for a dish because although i've not been to one of his restaurants, his dishes come across to me as very finnicky (this is not a negative reflection - i just dont have the patience to cook them myself, marvelous though they may be).

There are two things that make this dish so good: Firstly, the green masala marinade brings the lamb to life with fresh herbs and tangy spices, and the fennel seed matches so well with the crisp fennel salad. Secondly, the white balsamic makes the salad stand out. Sure, you could use red wine vinegar, or even regular balsamic. But i encourage you to seek out white balsamic for its slightly tarter but more sublte and simpler flavour to traditional balsamic. 

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Seared Pork & Ginger Dumplings with Mapo Sauce

So for a while now I've been toying around with making some chilli oil dumplings. I love that peppery warmth that comes from chilli oil that coats your tongue in a delicious heat. But i also wanted to try something a little bit new, not the stock standard chilli oil dumplings. How to take it up a notch? Add Mapo!

I was surprised how well this dish worked; i would make a very impressive plate at a one of those trendy new small plate bars. The freshness inside the dumpling (with the ginger and water chestnuts) does not get tainted by the mapo and there are two distinct flavours happening here.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Eye Fillet with Creamy Sauteed Leeks & Butter Beans

Okay, so by now, I've had a complete Jamie turnaround. At first I could not stand Jamie Oliver. The dishes i saw him cook on the television always seemed to be excessive. Things utilizing whole blobs of cheese per person and the like. It wasn't the unhealthy aspect of the food so much as, sure it looked presentable, but who would eat all that??

Since then, i've been converted. I've tried a couple of his dishes which have been fantastic, and i've revisted his early shows and built up an appreciation for his style of cooking. Though i still don't know about serving salads on chopping boards...

This beef is just to-die-for. What more can i say? Easily in the top 5 dishes i've ever cooked. If i got this in a chefs hat restaurant i would not bat an eye. It's that good, and so so so simple, so long as you understand the basics of cooking a steak:
  • resting is king. Rest your meat for 1/2 the time you took to cook it
  • Oil the meat, not the pan. If you oil the pan, it will just smoke everywhere. 
  • Season! 
  • If the steak is more than 2 inches thick, don't try to get it to medium on a griddle. Put that hunk in the oven! 

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Bun Thit Nuong - Grilled Pork Neck & Noodle Salad

I think if i went to Vietnam it would be hard to bring me back. The country looks so beautiful, the people are always nice, and the food is one of the most beautiful i've had. And yet, i rarely go to Vietnamese restaurants! In fact, i think i've only been to three or so Vietnamese restaurants in my life. And yet when i cook Vietnamese food, my family obsesses over it.

This dish is very similar to a beef salad i've done in past, with tweaks to the sauce and obviously the meat. I'm definitely in a pork neck craze at the moment; i can't believe i haven't used this cut of meat before! So tender and succulent yet full of pork flavour. It seems to work well for both a quick sear and a long stewing too.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Buffalo Chicken Pasta Bake

Call me crass, call me unsophisticated, but don't you ever, ever say i'm not tasty! Nom.

I came across this recipe originally from a great blog with great photography, How Sweet It Is and tweaked it to suit my own tastes, and have also included a buffalo chicken sauce recipe!This pasta bake is the sinfully unholy amalgamation of macaroni cheese and buffalo wings!

There would be only one improvement to this dish and i feel almost as though i should not say it in the interest of public safety! But... if you actually made buffalo wings, plucked the meat from the bones and used THAT instead of the poached chicken i used... you may be in United States-Hyrbrid Heaven.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Chicken, Tofu & Shiitake Mushrooms with Ginger Sauce, garnished with water chestnut and macadamia

I've always been a fan of dishes like Hainanese chicken which contain the most simple, mild flavours but allow the devourer to tweak to their tastes with a variety of garnishes.

I've also been a fan of dishes which focus on creating a variety of textures and flavours.

And in this dish, i am attempting to accomplish both! This dish is all about subtle ingredients, from the whisper of ginger in the mild sauce, to the hint of garlicky heat in the stems. The chicken is mild and succulent and the mushrooms provide a hint of earthiness. But when you add the chilli sauce, or soy, it brings the flavours to an even higher level.

This dish is not so much about cooking expertise as combining lots of ingredients i love into one dish

Although i'm not normally an advocate of heating things in cling film due to possible chemical leeching, the method did work as the chicken was both succulent and flavorful. 

Beef & Pearl Barley Soup

So here i am, completing the holy trinity of pearl barley soups! I've done the chicken and the lamb shank, and now, i present, the beef and pearl barley soup!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pecan Caramel Sticky Buns

The title says it all doesn't it! Yum! Well a colleague at work demanded that i bring in a treat as she was yet to try my cooking. So after perusing ideas on the internet i thought that these sticky buns would be an easy solution, also because my mother (yes, i currently like with my parents. yikes) picked up 12 little pie tins, perfect for sticky bun making!

Little did i know the work that goes into sticky buns. If anyone has made puff pastry, croissants or similar puffy pastries before, they will know the angst involved, particularly if you're a first timer like me. But the satisfaction i felt as i pulled the amazingly puffed and soft pastries from the oven was all worth it!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Apologies for the Hiatus

Sorry for the lack of posting here in the last few months! No excuses really, just the amalgamation of a rushed work life, leaving my camara at work at the rapid depletion of natural lighting (so much for no excuses!)

Here's a photolist of what i've been up to whilst i've been in hiberation :)

Lamb Fesenjan - Persian Lamb Stew with Pomegranate & Walnuts

Pomegranate molasses. It's certainly having a little dance across the culinary world at the moment isn't it? Amongst a raft of other vinegars and preserves which seem to be de rigeur at the moment. And i'm a sucker for some fads, and pomegranate molasses is one of them!

But rather than go out and spend $20 on a pretty slender jar of the stuff, it's unbelievably easy to make at home. Pomegranate juice, lemon juice, sugar. Boil to a syrup. The end!

But then you're left over with some. And you scratch your head as to what on earth to do with it beyond a delicious salad dressing. Well! That's where the crafty Persians come into the mix. Bring on the Fesenjan!

This beautiful stew is like no other i've ever eaten. The slight acidity of the molasses reminds me of the tartness of tamarind in a thai curry, or of vinegar in a vindaloo. But it's much more delicate than either, and the bitter nuttiness of the walnuts adds another level of dimension.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Slow Cooked Lamb Shoulder with Lemon Thyme Roast Vegetables


It's so difficult for me to decide whether my favorite meat is pork or lamb! Sure, if it was for every day, i would probably pick pork with it's added versatility in small goods but i don't think there is a meat so irresistable to me as the lamb roast! I am always getting into the roast early, trying to wrangle the lank shank from my mother/aunt/grandmother before my dad or cousin does. Something about the roast shank with it's sticky fat and stringy tender meat is just about the best thing in the world to me! And when you get a cut like shoulder and cook it properly, the result is an entire plate full of that succulent fatty meat! 

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cauliflower Soup

It seems like such a short time ago that i stopped doing my weekly soup recipes! And now I'm back, but i don't think i'll be making new soups every week like I'm used to: I'm simply running out of recipes!

It's strange that before today i'd never made a cauliflower soup. It was such a staple of my family's dinner table when i was younger, and it's beautifully simple in it's flavor. This one errs away from cheese and into a slight depth of flavor from the addition of the curry. But i make no pretense that this soup is anything of my own invention, the recipes comes very closely adapted from Australian Woman's Weekly!

Ginger Scallion Noodles with Grilled Chicken

I have great respect for the work of David Chang. I don't really want to write too much about him, lest i become another blogger who rants about the great respect they have for the work of David Chang. Whoops...

Anyway, one of my favorite cookbooks is the Momofuku cookbook. The story it tells, the detail it goes into, is just phenomenal. I really feel that if i go to the effort and obey his directions in the recipe, the dish will definitely turn out amazingly. Unfortunately those directions are often quite laborious and involve difficult-to-find ingredients!

This second dish that i have made from his cookbook is much simpler than the pork belly buns. Really, it's just the sauce for the noodles, and then you layer what you like ontop. My mum normally doesn't like egg noodles like this, but because the sauce does not weigh down the dish, and is quite light, she was converted.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Mars Bar Steamed Buns

o I've been dwelling on creating a different type of bao for a while now... trying to make my own twist of the epitome of steamed buns, the char siu bao that is obligatory at any number of yum cha establishments. The fluffy bun with the salty sweet pork, mmm, so delicious! But i was looking for something a little more refined, a little more savory, a little more, complex...

So how did i end up at mars bar steamed buns! I was so set on making bao using a filling i'd normally use in sang choy bao, with complex textures of crisp, crunchy, soft, etc, but then i was looking over a fish and chip shop menu and saw it there, my muse... the deep fried mars bar! Like a lightning bolt to the brain my synapses lit up at once and rather than funneling the energy into some sort of craving-induced coma it exposed itself as an idea - mars bar bao! And so it began.

The result was mixed. The Snickers bao i made first didn't carry that unctuous gooey deliciousness i wanted. But the mars bars, with their cavalier disregard for the nut, had the right texture. The buns themselves were fluffy but not sweet enough, so for the recipe below i've doubled the sugar content in the bun.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Niu Rou Mien

I am told that niu rou mian, or Taiwanese beef noodle soup, is one of the most popular dishes in Taiwan. As with all such popular dishes, there are devotees out there who will probably scowl at this recipe and say 'thats not how you do it!' I've seen versions that cook the broth and the serving meat seperately, similar to the pho i made, and i can see benefits to both courses of action. In this case i've opted for simplicity. With it's spicy ginger and star anise it reminds me of a less refined, more hearty version of Vietnam's eponymous beef pho. My dad actually preferred the richness of this dish. 

There is a school of thought out there that devotes possibly too much effort to the making of a clear broth. Unfortunately i am of that school! And whilst i'm yet to get to the obscenely clear broths of some of the experts out there, i can offer some handy hints to newbies on how to make their broth not cloudy:
  • Always start with cold water and raise the temperature of the broth slowly
  • Try not to bring a broth to the boil as this is rough on the proteins in your food and causes clouds
  • Skim the surface of your broth regularly. You might think you can do this later but by that time the scum would have reintegrated back into the soup in tiny particles.
  • When draining your stock, do so gently and do not press out the liquid, just let it sit

There are more methods incorporating freezing, egg whites and much more! I'll let you know when i try them. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Penne with Lamb Shank & Swiss Brown Mushroom Ragout

In case you can't tell, i'm really getting into mushrooms lately. There' something in them that you cannot substitute, something in the rich umami flavor that has lately stuck in my mind, drawing me to make more mushroom dishes! And this comes from a guy who, in his younger days, could not stand mushrooms. Years of eating only your standard field mushrooms, always reduced down to a ridiculously strong flavor through grilling, or pizza toppings, made me detest the humble mushroom. Since then my palate has grown but i still never use regular mushrooms in cooking, finding their flavor to be a bit too harsh.

And so in comes the swiss brown. Whilst i normally gravitate towards mushrooms suited to Asian cooking, such as enoki, shiitake (my favorite) and oyster, these mushrooms simply aren't well suited to the Italian richness of a ragu. Swiss browns are a close relative to the standard mushroom but with a more earthy flavor. Their texture is also a touch firmer so they stand well to the rigor i put them through in this dish.

Note that in this dish i take the meat off the shank before i cook; this is simply because i forgot to get them cut to fit in my dish! In an ideal world, put the whole shank in the pot. 

Caramelized Apples with Crushed Toasted Almonds and burnt butter sauce

Sometimes, you just need some lovin'! And when the bareness of the fridge makes you frown, you turn to the fruit bowl and sigh. Fear not, salvation is at hand. This dish is so easy to make, and has ingredients that are typically floating around the home (double cream, maybe not - i was lucky!). If you like apple crumble, this is the simpleton's version for when you want crumble and you WANT IT NOW.


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